Posts Tagged ‘kaopa’

Par Ici les Artistes!

August 13, 2018

If you have followed this blog over the years you will probably have realised that  apart from hiking in our lovely hills a considerable amount of our energy has been put into encouraging the musical events in the area, mainly as spectators, but also as performers and organizers.

Now we rarely talk about the presence and activities of the artists, painters and potters  who have settled in the area.  This does not mean they don’t exist.  Like all of us, they have been attracted by the beauty and diversity of the Ardèche landscape and by the affordability of food and lodging.  Like all artists they come and go, but we have some real pillars in the community.

To celebrate this, the ever inventive Laurent – now joined at Kaopa by his very creative partner Sandy – recently  organized an event which he called “Art à la Criée” in the little alley in front of his café in Lamastre.

La Criée is normally associated with fish markets  (especially the one in Marseille) where the catch that has just come in on the fishing boats is sold off in a boisterous and noisy auction, in which shouting has an intrinsic role.

Lamastre is landlocked – so no fish from the Mediterranean, but art work freshly produced by local artists!

Fifteen artists, using diverse media, set themselves up and worked away steadily all morning, despite the rain and the crowds of people chattering and peering over their shoulders.

It was impressive to see how calmly absorbed they were and to observe different techniques and ways of working.

Periodically Laurent and the auctioneer , a professional tourneur , would select a piece to be sold.

Bidding started at 5 euros and the final amounts were mostly very modest, but the notion of acquiring a work of art which had scarcely had time to exist before being sold made for a lively auction and an exhilarating atmosphere.

The morning concluded with a Match d’Improvisation  between two teams of artists – the idea being that the teams had to create a painting on a single given theme, with handicaps introduced from time to time, such as closing one eye, painting with the left hand or using an imposed colour.

Unfortunately our day was busy and we couldn’t stay …. so we don’t know who won.

Lemon Meringue Pie … suite et fin

August 31, 2016

Markus points out that all the last few posts have been to do with food, so a change of subject is coming soon!

But meanwhile some pictures of the very convivial Sunday morning event at Kaopa.

Contestants begin to arrive. Paloma the dog is on message

Contestants begin to arrive. Paloma the dog is on message


A very high standard of entries

A very high standard of entries

The judges are ready

The judges are ready

Serious concentration required

Serious concentration required

At times it was hard to keep up!

Yum! All delicious!

Yum! All delicious!

Winners of the Citron d'Or, Argent and Bronze

Christine, Sandie and Nathalie, Winners of the Citron d’Or, Argent and Bronze

Winners and Judges (with Suhail being silly in the background!)

Winners and Judges (with Suhail being silly in the background!)

Paloma's had enough!

Paloma’s had enough!

Markus in his monochrome finery

Markus in his monochrome finery

The judge’s decision is final

August 26, 2016

Concours Tarte au Citron meringuéeet Tenue Monochrome

The ever inventive Laurent from Kaopa is holding a lemon meringue pie competition on Sunday.

The idea arose at a party to which we had been asked to bring desserts.  He was singing the praises of his partner’s tarte au citron meringuée.  Discussion ensued – I find the French have peculiar notions about pastry and tend to mke things too sweet for my taste – and the result was the competition.  I am now rather taken aback to have been asked to be one of the judges.  Laurent says its OK for me to participate as well and that we will be blindfolded, relying solely on our taste buds and palate, but still I feel that this is a bit irregular.

My mother, amongst her many other accomplishments, was a judge for the WI – I still have her badges and certificates – and I remember spending mornings with her amid the cool grassy smells of a marquee set up in the grounds of some stately home, assessing faultless ranks of victoria sponges, cottage loaves, apple pies and jars of jam and preserves.

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They all had to be tasted and graded.   Tiny slices were cut out of the cakes, spoonfuls of jelly, lemon curd and chutney had to be sampled (too many entries in the pickles class was something she found extremely trying!) and the loaves were cut open to check for any backsliding in the kneading process.

It so happens that my friend Jane has recently been very successful with her redcurrant jelly at the local show and it brought it all back to me.

At such events there are strict rules about general appearance, presentation and colour as well as texture, fluffiness/crunchiness/density and so on, depending on the item.  Labels have to be attached at the approved height and imposed recipes scrupulously adhered to.

judge's comments

A Dorset friend who regularly enters items in the Briantspuddle Summer Show (I am not making this up) takes particular exception to the little notes that the judges leave with their comments, in what he calls their nasty cramped writing.  He usually carries all before him with his marmalade but there was an occasion when the jar (or was it the Gentleman’s Class Fruit Cake?) came off the back of his motorbike and arrived looking somewhat dinged in.

The Kaopa event is sure to be altogether less stressful and formalised.  I think it’s largely going to be an occasion to eat lots of lemon meringue pie and drink delicious coffee.

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PS  Attentive readers will have noticed that we all are to wear une tenue monochrome.  Markus has dyed a whole outfit kingfisher blue, in which he will certainly cut a dash.  Photos to follow.

More from Kaopa

May 3, 2016



Last Saturday I made a date and walnut loaf as my gâteau suspendu for Kaopa.  This morning when I dropped in for an espresso I was mobbed by the ladies at this table, who had tasted it and wanted the recipe.  They had been very intrigued by the cake and two had tried to recreate it at home, using lots of dark brown sugar and eggs.  It had not worked so they were very interested to hear that this cake contains neither – the raising agent being  baking powder, reinforced with bicarbonate of soda.

I was so pleased by this little encounter.  Kaopa is all about connections and exchanging views and ideas and this seems like a great example.

For anyone who’s interested, here’s the recipe:

Date and walnut loaf

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Kaopa and the gingerbread

April 3, 2016

Laurent at Kaopa Café

A few years ago Laurent left the Chopes du Moulin micro brewery and started a new business as a micro coffee roaster.  After a few years of selling on markets in all winds and weathers whilst simultaneously creating a distribution network of local cafés and restaurants on the look out for excellent, ethical coffee, Laurent decided he really needed his sitting room back.  It was time to look for a commercial property and move out his coffee roaster, sacks of beans and general paraphernalia.  Kaopa Café opened its doors last Spring and has swiftly become THE place to be in Lamastre, where there’s always something going on and someone to chat to.  Here are Markus and friends playing outside in the summer.

Jazz at Kaopa

One of Laurent’s  initiatives is the café suspendu  where you pay for an extra coffee and the slip is hung on a little washing line, to be used by any other customer.  Recently some of us have been baking a cake for Saturday, which is cut into tiny pieces and served with the coffee instead of the usual locally produced little biscuit.  The other Saturday it was my turn and I decided to make a gingerbread.

GingerbreadFrench people are generally not too fond of ginger, but as it isn’t the predominant flavour of gingerbread I thought I’d to go for it.  It went down very well and at once the customers tried to classify it in terms of a French equivalent.  They were puzzled by the very dark colour – which they had at first taken for chocolate – and the slightly bitter taste imparted by the  black treacle. The closest they came was “pain d’épices” a spiced honey cake from Burgundy.   I found it almost impossible to explain Golden Syrup and Black Treacle, which are unknown here and it got me thinking.

I was struck by the Burgundian connection and the use of honey.

My, largely un-researched, theory is that spices such as ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace and cloves are much more commonly used in Northern European baking than in the South.  Hansel and Gretel’s Gingerbread House, Lebkuchen and Speculoos are just some examples.  Although spices had been imported since Ancient times via the Eastern Mediterranean trade routes, these had withered away at the end of the 15thC, after the discovery of the New World opened up new trading avenues and opportunities.

By the early 16thC both the Dutch and the English were forging trade links with the Far East.  The first Dutch conquests were made among the Portuguese trading posts in the Maluku Islands, known as the Spice Islands due to the nutmeg, mace and cloves that were originally only to be found there.  The Dutch East Indies, later Indonesia, provided ginger, which flourished in the lush tropical jungles and cinnamon was brought from Zeylan, now Sri Lanka.

Encouraged by such easy gains in the East, the Dutch Republic quickly decided to exploit Portugal’s weakness in the Americas and in 1621 the Dutch West India Company was created to take control of the sugar trade.

Out of the strong came forth sweetness

So where does Burgundy fit in?  Since the Duchy of Burgundy extended into Flanders and the Low Countries until the death of Charles the Bold in 1477, when large parts of it were incorporated into the French Kingdom, my theory would explain how the spice cake found its way into the land of vineyards, mustard and Charollais cattle.

Burgundy map

Possibly the use of honey became more widespread with the British Naval blockade during the Napoleonic Wars, when France was cut off from her sugar producing colonies in the Caribbean and turned to large scale production of sugar beet. This is still the primary source of commercially available sugar meaning that syrup and treacle, by-products of cane sugar refining are pretty much unknown.

History apart it was perfect with Laurent’s exquisite espresso, as he says: Le café qui peut se boire sans sucre.


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